Alex Kotlowitz

The public libraries in Brookfield and Riverside are teaming up this winter to host a community reading program, which will culminate in early March, featuring an evening with Alex Kotlowitz, the author of the book chosen for the program’s inaugural year.

In addition to reading Kotlowitz’s 2004 book, Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago, participants — both children and adults — can take part in a month’s worth of Chicago-centric activities offered by each library.

“A lot of communities to the west of us do a community reading program,” said Christy Eyre, the partnerships and public relations librarian for the Brookfield Public Library. “We had a goal for ourselves to have our own community reading program.”

Brookfield and Riverside previously collaborated on the Language of Conservation program in conjunction with Brookfield Zoo a couple of years ago, and Eyre said it made sense to approach Riverside about a joint reading program.

The result was a program called On the Same Page, an event that kicks off in the coming week. The first event, on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m., is a youth activity on the Willis Tower at the Riverside Public Library. Participants can learn about the building from its general manager and then inspect a scale model of the building.

On Monday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. adult participants can get the ball rolling with a Chicago Trivia Night at Irish Times, 8869 Burlington Ave. in Brookfield.

All of the events related to the program can be found at a website create for the reading program at

Janice Fisher, director of the Riverside Public Library, said the decision to choose Kotlowitz’s book was easy.

“The connection with Chicago and the suburbs is something people can relate to or have experienced,” Fisher said.

Never a City So Real is a series of essays instead of a unified narrative, which makes the book immediately accessible. The people, places and politics described in the book are familiar.

“For me, I think part of the appeal of writing this book was getting more engaged with the city,” said Kotlowitz, an Oak Park resident who wrote the award-winning 1991 book, There Are No Children Here, which detailed the lives of two boys growing up in the Henry Horner Homes on Chicago’s West Side.

“I had such a good time hanging out with the people I was writing about,” he said. “It was a great excuse to meet people I always wanted to.”

The reading program will climax on Tuesday, March 5 with an appearance by Kotlowitz for “public conversation” about the book in the auditorium of Hauser Junior High School in Riverside.

Prior to that, participants in the reading program can discuss the book at any one of a series of “Kotlowitz Conversations,” scheduled at various places in Riverside and Brookfield in February.

Copies of the book are available for checkout at each library. The libraries also have copies of the book available for purchase for $10.